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lumes, closely printed in one volume, and published by Messrs. Oliver and Boyd, of Edinburgh.]
A great movement was going on. The Reformation, which, after the Diet of Worms, had been thought to be confined with its first teacher in the narrow chamber of a strong castle, was breaking forth in every part of the empire, and, so to speak, throughout Christendom. The two classes, hitherto mixed up together, were now beginning to sepa rate ; and the partisans of a monk, whose only defence was his tongue, now took their stand fearlessly in the face of the servants of Charles V. and Leo X. Luther had scarcely left the walls of the Wartburg, the Pope had excommunicated all his adherents, the imperial diet had just condemned his doctrine, the princes were endeavouring to crush it in most of the German states, the ministers of Rome were lowering it in the eyes of the people by their violent invectives, and the other states of Christendom were calling upon Germany to sacrifice a man whose assaults they feared even at a distance; and yet this new sect, few in numbers, and among whose numbers there was no organization, no bond of union, nothing in short that concentrated their common power, was already frightening the vast, ancient, and powerful sovereignty of Rome by the energy of its faith and the rapidity of its conquests. On all sides, as in the first warm days of spring, the seed was bursting from the earth spontaneously and without effort. Every day showed some new progress. Individuals, villages, towns, whole cities, joined in this new confession of the name of Jesus Christ. There was unpitying opposition, there were terrible persecutions, but the mysterious power that urged all these people onward was irresistible; and the persecuted, quickening their steps, going forward through exile, imprisonment, and the burning pile, every where prevailed over their persecutors.
The monastic orders that Rome had spread over Christendom, like a net intended to catch souls and keep them prisoners, were the first to break their bonds, and rapidly to propagate the new doctrine throughout the Church. The Augustines of Saxony had walked with Luther, and felt that inward experience of the Holy Word which, by putting them in possession of God himself, dethroned Rome and her lofty assumptions. But in the other convents of the order evangelical light had dawned in like manner. Sometimes they were old men, who, like Staupitz, had preserved the sound doctrines of truth in the midst of deluded Christendom, and who now besought God to permit them to depart in peace, for their eyes had seen his salvation. At other times they were young men, who had received Luther's teaching with the eagerness peculiar to their age. The Augustine converts at Nuremberg, Osnabrück, Dillingen, Ratisbon, Strasburg, and Antwerp, with those in Hesse and Würtemberg, turned towards Jesus Christ, and by their courage excited the wrath of Rome.
But this movement was not confined to the Augustines only. Highspirited men imitated them in the monasteries of other orders, and notwithstanding the clamours of the monks, who would not abandon their carnal observances, notwithstanding the anger, contempt, sentences, discipline, and imprisonments of the cloister, they fearlessly raised their voices in behalf of that holy and precious truth, which they had found at last after so many painful inquiries, such despair and doubt, and such inward struggle. In the majority of the cloisters the most spiritual, pious, and learned monks declared for the Reformation. In the Franciscan convent at Ulm, Eberlin and Kettenbach attacked the slavish works of monasticism, and the superstitious observances of the Church, with an eloquence capable of moving the whole nation; and they called for the immediate abolition of the monasteries and houses of ill fame. Another Franciscan, Stephen Kempe, preached the Gospel at Hamburg, and, alone, presented a firm front to the hatred, envy, menaces, snares, and attacks of the priests, who were irritated at seeing the crowd abandon their altars, and flock with enthusiasm to hear his sermons. Frequently the superiors in the convents were the first led away
in the path of reform. At Halberstadt, Neuenwerk, Halle, and Sagan, the priors set the example to their monks, or at least declared that, if a monk felt his conscience burdened by the weight of monastic vows, far from detaining him in the convent, they would take him by the shoulders and thrust him out of doors.
Indeed, throughout all Germany the monks were seen laying down their frocks and cowls at the gates of their monasteries. Some were expelled by the violence of the brethren or the abbots; others, of mild and pacific character, could no longer endure the continual disputes,
abuse, clamour, and hatred, which pursued them even in their slumbers; the majority were convinced that monastic life was opposed to the will of God and to a Christian life; some had arrived at this conviction by degrees ; and others suddenly, by reading a passage in the Bible. The sloth, grossness, ignorance, and degradation that constituted the very nature of the mendicant orders inspired with indescribable disgust all men of elevated mind, who could no longer support the society of their vulgar associates. One day a Franciscan, going his rounds, stopped with the box in his hand begging alms at a blacksmith's forge in Nürnberg: “Why,” said the smith,“ do you not gain your bread by the work of your own hands ?” At these words the sturdy monk threw away his staff, and seizing the hammer plied it vigorously on the anvil. The useless mendicant had become an honest workman. His box and frock were sent back to the monastery.
The monks were not the only persons who rallied round the standard of the Gospel; priests in still greater numbers began to preach the new doctrines. But preachers were not required for its propagation; it frequently acted on men's minds, and aroused them from their deep slumber without any one having spoken.
Luther's writings were read in cities, towns, and even villages; at night by the fireside the schoolmaster would often read them aloud to an attentive audience. Some of the hearers were affected by their perusal; they would take up the Scriptures to clear away their doubts, and were struck with surprise at the astonishing contrast between the Christianity of the Bible and their own. After oscillating between Rome and Scripture, they soon took refuge with that living Word which shed so new and sweet a radiance on their hearts. While they were in this state, some evangelical preacher, probably a priest or a monk, would arrive. Speaking eloquently, and with conviction, he announced that Christ had made full atonement for the sins of his people, and demonstrated by Holy Scripture the vanity of works and human penances. A terrible opposition would then break out; the clergy, and sometimes the magistrates, would strain every nerve to bring back the souls they were about to lose. But there was in the new preaching a harmony with Scripture and a hidden force that won all hearts, and subdued even the most rebellious. At the peril of their goods, and of their life if need be, they ranged themselves on the side of the Gospel, and forsook the barren and fanatical orators of the рарасу. Sometimes the people, incensed at being so long misled, compelled them to retire; more frequently the priests, deserted by their flocks, without tithes or offerings, departed voluntarily and in sadness to seek a livelihood elsewhere. And while the supporters of the ancient hierarchy retired from these places sorrowful and dejected, and sometimes bidding farewell to their old flocks in the language of anathema, the people, whom truth and liberty transported with joy, surrounded the new preachers with acclamations, and, thirsting for the Word of God, carried them as it were in triumph into the church and into the pulpit.
A word of power, proceeding from God, was at that time regenerating society. The people, or their leaders, would frequently invite some man, celebrated for his faith, to come and enlighten them; and he, for love of the Gospel, would immediately abandon his interests and his family, his country and friends. Persecution often compelled the partisans of the Reformation to leave their homes, they reached some spot where it was as yet unknown; there they would find some house that offered an asylum to poor travellers ; there they would speak of the Gospel, read a chapter to the attentive hearers, and perhaps, by the intercession of their new friends, obtain permission to preach once publicly in the church Then indeed a fierce fire would break out in the city, and the greatest exertions were ineffectual to quench it. If they could not preach in the church, they found some other spot. Every place became a temple. At Husum, in Holstein, Hermann Taat, who was returning from Wittemberg, and against whom the clergy of the parish had closed the church doors, preached to an immense crowd in the cemetery, beneath the shade of two large trees, not far from the spot where, seven centuries before, Anschar bad proclaimed the Gospel to the heathen. At Arnstadt, Gaspard Güttel, an Augustine monk, preached in the market place. At Dantzic, the Gospel was announced on a little hill without the city. At Goslar, a Wittemberg student, taught the new doctrines in a meadow, planted with lime-trees; whence the evangelical Christians were denominated the Lime-tree Brethren.
While the priests were exhibiting their sordid covetousness before the eyes of the people, the new preachers said to them, “Freely we have received, freely do we give.” The idea often expressed by the new preachers from the pulpit, that Rome had formerly sent the
Germans a corrupted Gospel, so that now for the first time Germany heard the Word of Christ in its heavenly and primal beauty, produced a deep impression on men's minds. And the noble thought of the equality of all men, of a universal brotherhood in Jesus Christ, laid strong hold upon those souls which for so long a period had groaned beneath the yoke of feudalism, and of the papacy of the Middle Ages.
Often would unlearned Christians, with the New Testament in their hands, undertake to justify the doctrine of the Reformation. The Catholics who remained faithful to Rome withdrew in affright; for to priests and monks alone had been assigned the task of studying sacred literature. The latter were therefore compelled to come forward ; the conference began ; but ere long, overwhelmed by the declarations of Holy Scripture cited by these laymen, the priest and monks knew not how to reply. “ Unhappily," says Cochlæus, “Luther had persuaded his followers to put no faith in any other oracle than the Holy Scriptures." A shout was raised in the assembly, denouncing the scandalous ignorance of these old theologians, who had hitherto been reputed such great scholars by their own party.
Men of the lowest station, and even the weaker sex, by the aid of God's word, persuaded and led away men's hearts. Extraordinary works are the result of extraordinary times. At Ingoldstadt, under the
eyes of De Eck, a young weaver read Luther's works to the assembled crowd. In this very city, the university having resolved to compel a disciple of Melancthon to retract, a woman, named Argula de Staufen, undertook his defence, and challenged the doctors to a public disputation. Women and children, artisans and soldiers, knew more of the Bible than the doctors of the schools, or the priests of the altars.
Christendom was divided into two hostile bodies, and their aspects were strikingly contrasted. Opposed to the old champions of the hierarchy, who had neglected the study of languages and the cultivation of literature (as one of their own body informs us), were generousminded youths, devoted to study, investigating Scripture, and familiarizing themselves with the masterpieces of antiquity. Possessing an active mind, an elevated soul, and intrepid heart, these young men soon acquired such knowledge, that, for a long period, none could compete with them. It was not only the vitality of their faith which rendered them superior to their contemporaries, but an elegance of style, a per